Cape Breton University student to resurrect support network for pre-med students

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SYDNEY — Mykel Denny wants to pursue a new career in medicine, but says preparations for the test to enter medical school have him desperately looking for a support group to guide him.

The 40-year-old from Eskasoni, a pre-med biology student at Cape Breton University, recalled hearing about a group at CBU that offered a variety of supports for students interested in attend medical school outside of Cape Breton.

“I had read about it on their website, but never really heard about it on campus,” Denny said.

But the CBU Pre-Med Society essentially went dormant once restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic took effect.

Denny said preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the standardized exam for prospective medical students, can be quite daunting.

“But I didn’t realize how much more there was to do, outside of academics,” Denny said, referring to preparations for interviews to enter future medical schools. “I just felt lost. I had no direction to follow in terms of guidance and support.

Recognizing this, Denny also thought there were others who might have felt the same way, prompting a search to learn more about the company in hopes of possibly restarting it.

“I reached out to one of my teachers, Kellie White, to find out if she knew about it,” Denny said. “She said it hadn’t worked (in years). And I said, ‘We should turn it back on.’

ACTIONS REQUIRED

According to White, a senior lab instructor in the university’s biology department, the society’s primary goal was to help students with the actions required to enter medical school.

“A lot of people don’t realize what a difficult process it is. It goes beyond doing well in school. You have to take courses that help you get into medical school — your typical course, biology, chemistry and physics,” White said. “They help students understand which courses you need to take to get in; so there is an element of counseling that has happened through faculty counselors.

“Also, in the past, they have implemented mock interviews. Once a student is accepted into the first stage of application, the next step is to go for a medical school interview. Admission depends on your success in the interview.

Cape Breton University – CONTRIBUTED

Kellie White, senior lab instructor in CBU's biology department: “A lot of people don't realize how difficult the process is.
Kellie White, senior lab instructor in CBU’s Department of Biology: “A lot of people don’t realize what a difficult process this is.”

PARTICIPATION OF PHYSICIANS

On many occasions, local doctors were brought in to participate in these mock interviews and work with the students on the skills they needed to master the mock interview, as well as the real deal.

The company may also be involved in various fundraisers or ticket raffles. In late 2012, according to a CBU Student Union Twitter post, the Pre-Med Society was selling tickets to a Christmas hamper.

“Several years ago, pre-med students actually raised money and went to Africa to help an organization called Global Brigades that does medical outreach,” White said, adding that medical schools require also that students gain some volunteer experience.

Pre-medical or pre-medical societies exist at many universities, which may or may not already offer a separate medical school. These include institutions in Atlantic Canada such as Dalhousie, St. Francis Xavier, University of Prince Edward Island, University of New Brunswick and Memorial University of Newfoundland.

SEPTEMBER RELAUNCH

Denny, meanwhile, is also keen on reviving the company as an opportunity to bring in more Indigenous, Black and international students to learn what it would take to get into medical school.

“We’re going to open up to all communities,” said Denny, president of CBU Pre-Med, which is planning a September relaunch and taking registrations now.

For more information, email Denny at [email protected] or look for it around CBU’s Unama’ki College.

Ian Nathanson is a political reporter at the Cape Breton Post. Follow him on Twitter at @CBPost_Ian

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